McLaren MP4-12C Spider (2012) first official pictures

Published: 03 July 2012

For the naysayers who continue to decry McLaren’s MP4-12C for a supposed lack of visual and visceral drama, the British supercar maker has unveiled this: the new 2012 McLaren MP4-12C Spider.

Mechanically identical to the newly updated MP4-12C coupe, the Spider gets a unique retractable hard-top to keep out the rain, just in time for its wintry lanch in November 2012.

How is the McLaren 12C Spider’s folding roof unique?

The eagle-eyed car enthusiast will have immediately remembered that the Ferrari 458 Spider was the world’s first mid-engined supercar to feature a folding metal roof system, and you’ll no doubt be wondering how McLaren can claim that their own ‘RHT’ (Retractable Hard Top) is unique.

Firstly, there’s the ability of the McLaren RHT to be operated on the move. Ferrari claims that safety reasons prohbit the 458 going al fresco while in motion, but the 12C Spider can pop its top at speeds of up to 18mph. The rear window/wind deflector can also be lowered when the roof is in position to allow more engine noise from the mid-mounted V8 into the cabin, whatever the weather. How very British-market friendly.

Ogling delight

Pushing the 12C Spider ahead in the theatre stakes, the 12C’s engine can be ogled through a glass panel in the rear tonneau cover. The 458 Spider’s V8, meanwhile, is hidden below a solid panel, with only a few vents to hint at the power lurking beneath.

Finally, the conversion of Italia to Spider adds 50kg to the mass of a 458. By designing the MP4-12C’s carbon monocoque tub structure for cabriolet use from the outset, no additional bracing is required for the loss of the roof, meaning the overall weight penalty from the roof mechanism is just 40kg.

McLaren didn’t want the 12C Spider to deviate from its reputation for user-friendly, ‘practical’ supercars’, so an additional 52-litre luggage space has been squeezed in under the rear tonneau cover, and fitted luggage sets are available to complement it.

But is the 12C Spider faster than a 458 Spider?

Yes – all except for one crucial aspect. The 458 will fold its roof away in a scant 14 seconds, whereas McLaren quotes a time of ‘under 17 seconds’ for their RHT. That statistic, however, remains the only Top Trump battle swayed in the Italian car’s favour.

All 12C Spiders will be fitted with the newly uprated version of the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine found in the coupe, now developing 616bhp (up from 592bhp previously; a 458 produces ‘just’ 562bhp, remember). The 1474kg 12C Spider – 60kg lighter than the Ferrari – hits 62mph in 3.1sec, 100mph in 6.1 sec (just one tenth behind the fixed-head MP4-12C) and tops out at 204mph – 3mph slower than the upgraded hard-top car.

Underneath, McLaren’s hydraulic suspension, twin-clutch gearbox and ‘Brake-Steer’ system all remain unchanged from the 2012 MP4-12C.

Anything else new on the 12C Spider?

As per the upgraded coupe, there are new lightweight alloy wheel designs with a diamond-turn finish, a vehilce lift system to maker the ground-hugging 12C more speed-bump friendly, and new finishes on offer, inside and out.

You can now choose to have your McLaren in one of 17 exterior colours, and upholstery options have expanded to include semi-aniline perforated leather and Alcantara in Sir’s choice of combination.

I want one. When, and how much?

The McLaren MP4-12C Spider goes on sale in the UK in November 2012, with prices starting at £195,500 – before you’ve so much as looked at the pricey lightweight options McLaren tempts you with.

That figure represents a £19,500 premium over the 2013-model 12C coupe, with all the powertrain and technical updates on board.

Again, McLaren appears to have cheekily undercut its cloest Ferrari rival: 458 Spiders start at £198,856, though you’ll be paying a fair wedge more than that if you wish to jump the waiting list. As it stands, Spider vs Spider should make for a web of intrigue in the inevitable twin test during 2013.

By Ollie Kew

Former road tester and staff writer of this parish